Matthew Pouliot

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets

Keeping Cliff Lee is the wrong choice for Phillies

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Trends don’t get much more clear than this:

2008: Won World Series
2009: Lost World Series
2010: Lost NLCS
2011: Lost NLDS
2012: Missed playoffs

Now, that’s not entirely fair: the Phillies had their best records in that span in 2011 and 2010. But Charlie Manuel’s team has dropped off severely since then. In 2012, the Phillies finished at .500. They’ll be lucky to get back there this year; not only are they 50-56 at the moment, but their run differential (-74) is better than only Miami’s in the NL.

A rebuild seems necessary, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is resisting. His idea of going young was acquiring Michael and Delmon over the winter. The Phillies were reportedly open to trading Cliff Lee, but they priced him so high as to make that impossible. If they keep Lee and re-sign Chase Utley, here’s what they currently look for 2014:

SP: Lee – 35 – $25 million
SP: Cole Hamels – 30 – $22.5 million
SP: Kyle Kendrick – 29 – $4.5 million

??: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – 27 – $8 million (approx.)

RP: Jonathan Papelbon – 33 – $13 million
RP: Mike Adams – 35 – $7 million
RP: Antonio Bastardo – 28 – $2.5 million (approx.)

1B: Ryan Howard – 34 – $25 million
2B: Utley – 35 – $13 million (approx.)
SS: Jimmy Rollins – 35 – $11 million
OF: Domonic Brown – 26 – $600,000 (approx.)
OF: Ben Revere – 26 – $1.8 million (approx.)

That’s a $134 million foundation, and not a particularly good one. Unless the newly signed Gonzalez shows something in this next couple of months and proves he’s ready to occupy a rotation spot, the Phillies will still be in need of a one starting pitcher, a catcher and an outfielder. They do have the option of bringing back John Lannan for $4 million or so. They could also try sticking with Jonathan Pettibone as their fifth starter and filling third base from within.

But Amaro is going to have to pull off far better signings than he has of late if he hopes to turn the Phillies back into contenders in 2014. He will have financial flexibility even with all of those commitments. Perhaps the best defense for going that route is that Amaro doesn’t seem like a very good candidate to pull off a successful rebuild, either.

I’ve heard one explanation for the high price for Lee is that the Phillies know they can just as easily trade him a year from now. But that just delays the inevitable and probably leaves them wallowing in mediocrity for another year. Why wait?

Report: Yankees getting hits on Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes
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USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Yankees have gotten two offers for Phil Hughes in advance of the trade deadline.

Hughes is a free agent at season’s end, and it’s unlikely that the Yankees will re-sign him, given his problems in Yankee Stadium. Hughes is 4-9 with a 4.58 ERA this season, but he has a 3.02 ERA in his nine road starts this season, compared to a 6.02 mark at home. He’s allowed 20 homers, 14 of them coming in Yankee Stadium.

Still, even though Hughes isn’t really helping the Bombers at the moment, it’d be dangerous for them to simply give him away. Their rotation fallbacks are David Phelps and Michael Pineda. Phelps had a 5.01 ERA in his 12 starts and six relief appearances before being sent down earlier this month. Pineda, coming off shoulder surgery, has yet to be extended past five innings in his minor league starts. He does have a 26/4 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but those 21 1/3 innings have come over the course of five starts.

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3:43 p.m. EDT update: The New York Post’s Joel Sherman says the Braves have talked to the Yankees about Hughes, but that it’s unlikely anything will happen.

Heyman: Nothing cooking with Giants on Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum

Hunter Pence
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If the Giants make a trade before Wednesday’s 4:00 p.m. EDT deadline, it’s probably going to include lefty specialist Javier Lopez. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, they’re not actively involved in any discussions regarding free agents-to-be Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum.

The Giants put a high price tag on Pence because they hope to re-sign him this winter. The 30-year-old right fielder is batting .277/.320/.455 with 14 homers and 51 RBI in 415 at-bats this year. If he were traded, it would have been the third straight year he was involved in a deadline deal; he was sent from Houston to Philadelphia in 2011 and from Philadelphia to San Francisco a year ago.

Unlike Pence, Lincecum has a good chance of clearing waivers, opening up the possibility for an August trade.

Lopez is being talked about as a possibility for Detroit or Cleveland. He’s perhaps the game’s best pure lefty specialist; left-handers have posted OPSs of .383, .500 and .422 against him the last three years. He also holds his own against righties, but the Giants have always been able to shy away from using him against them in key situations.

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2:45 p.m. EDT update: The New York Post’s Joel Sherman is reporting that the Reds are also in on Lopez.